Moraga Canyon residents from both Oakland and Piedmont heard ideas for mitigating the impacts of a proposal to construct sports fields in Blair Park Monday. The intense emotions around the project were sidelined as Oakland City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who hosted the meeting along with fellow Councilwoman Jane Brunner and Piedmont Mayor Dean Barbieri, asked that questions be kept brief and focused on traffic concerns.
Residents at the meeting worried that if the sports groups that want the development were to hold late afternoon and evening practices in Blair Park, rush hour traffic would increase and more cars would go through residential neighborhoods looking for alternative routes between Broadway Terrace and Park Boulevard. They noted that the environmental impact report on the proposal, which was , did not study traffic patterns at peak rush hour.
Clarence Mamuyac, project designer and a member of the backing Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization's board, said two consulting firms had been brought in to come up with some traffic calming options: San Francisco-based Nelson Nygaard and Walkable Communities, Inc. of Port Townsend, WA.
The consultants had suggested that traffic circles could be installed at the park entrances on Moraga Avenue, or possibly traffic lights or stop signs could go in at Harbord Drive in Oakland or Maxwelton Road in Piedmont.
Oakland Transportation Services Division Manager Wladimir Wlassowsky noted that many of the concerns about traffic on Moraga Avenue that have come up recently in the course of discussion over the sports fields proposal have been voiced many times over the years.
Residents have asked his office for sidewalks, gutters, and re-grading of Moraga Avenue. The office has also received requests for electronic traffic update signs, bike lanes, improved landscaping, and crosswalks on the road that is the main artery between Highway 13 and Pleasant Valley, connecting the Oakland shopping districts that surround Piedmont.
“Many good ideas have been offered and considered,” Wlassowsky said. None, however, have been implemented.
Piedmont’s and gave their blessings to the development at meetings in January and February respectively with caveats that the traffic concerns be addressed. The rejected the proposal last week in part because the feasibility of the ideas for calming traffic on Moraga Avenue had not yet been studied.
Despite Schaaf's efforts at the outset to constrain Monday’s discussion to traffic, the Moraga Canyon neighbors did reiterate other concerns, including possible drainage problems and loss of wildlife habitat and worries that the 18-foot high berm needed along Moraga Avenue to raise and level the playing field would create a tunnel effect.
Responding to a question from a constituent at the meeting about the possibility of suing to stop the project, Schaaf, who represents Oakland residents on the south side of Moraga Avenue and east of Blair Park, said, “I want you to know that I am opposed to this project.”
Brunner, who represents Oakland residents to the north and west, expressed more confidene that the problems with the project could be overcome.
"We are trying to enter into a contract to work together with Piedmont," Brunner said. "Issues were raised with the Caldecott Tunnel, and most were worked out."
Piedmont City Council will consider the project along with possible mitigations and alternatives at a public hearing March 21.